Milwaukee mask mandate takes effect Thursday for everyone 3 and older; could be challenged in court

MILWAUKEE -- Mayor Tom Barrett on Tuesday, July 14 signed Milwaukee’s mask ordinance which takes effect Thursday, July 16. MKE Cares mandates masks for everyone ages 3 and older in indoor public places and outdoors when you're within 6 feet of people who are not family or members of your household.

The full Milwaukee Common Council voted 15-0 Monday to approve the ordinance.

The mandate will be enforced not by police, but by the health department, with fines of $50 to $500 targeting businesses -- with later chances to lose licenses or be shut down.

"If you don't want to wear a mask, then stay home," said Mayor Barrett. "As much as we want our lives to be back to normal, they are not back to normal right now."

There are several exemptions, including for medical and mental health reasons, when talking to someone who is hard of hearing, when eating or drinking, and for schools that have mitigation plans approved by the health commissioner.

Jeanette Kowalik

"We shouldn't be shaming people into not wearing a mask, because you don't know their situation," said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik.

This mandate could be challenged in court.

Ed Fallone


"I think almost certainly it will be challenged," said Ed Fallone, law professor at Marquette University Law School. "Mask mandates across the county are facing challenge. People are primarily asserting constitutional infringements, but it's important to remember, there is no such thing as a right to put other people's lives and health at risk."

For those who need a mask, the city will be giving them away.

Mike Kryshak

"As far as what I've donated, it's been substantial, but I don't really put a price on human life," said Mike Kryshak, owner of Rebel Converting, which makes disinfectant wipes used by hospitals.

Kryshak started Mask Up MKE -- donating materials to make 3 million free masks. Now he's getting ready for another 1 million.

"I felt guilty, quite frankly," said Kryshak. "My business was doing very well. It started growing exponentially because of COVID, and I just didn't feel right making the profit off of the misery of others, so we decided to donate a portion of those profits to do what we could to fight COVID."

Masks can be picked up at these Milwaukee Health Department locations:

    Wisconsin's first countywide mask mandate took effect in Dane County Monday -- requiring masks be worn by everyone ages 5 and up and in every indoor space.

    On Friday, July 10, Shorewood became the first local municipality to mandate wearing masks.

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